Jump right in!

My kids are unique. Not just from other kids, but from one another. I am unique. I parent in ways that are not the “norm”. I can be labeled as a hover mom, helicopter mom, an over protective mom, or down right ridiculous. But what I most certainly am, is a praying mom. And I do the best I can.

Nothing makes a mother feel worse than seeing their child struggling and wondering if all the things people said about her is true, and have aided in the current struggle their children are facing. NOTHING!

I have made many sacrifices to stay at home with my family. One of those is, of course, money. I don’t make any. So when it came time to sign our kids up for swim lessons the money wasn’t there. It was important to me, but something I could not do. I thought I could teach them, but for whatever reason, the fear of drowning outweighed the trust the had that I would not drown them! And so My Lil’ Jewel would cling to the side and scream if we pushed her to get in the water. She would scream and cry and dig her nails into my skin until I relinquished and put her back on her shallow step. My First Born is a tad more daring, but only after he has tried it a LONG time.

So when we moved here we found that swimming lessons were about 1/4 the cost of the ones before we moved. So we signed them up! Last year they fell sick the week of lessons, so it brings us to this year. At age 8 and 6, they are taking their first swimming lesson. They are the oldest in their class, they have not noticed, praise God. I sat to watch only to see the oldest two in class were the only ones too scared to swim. Lil’ Jewel watched as all the other kids dunked their faces in the water and she began to shrink back and let her fear build. I watched from 50 feet away helpless. There was nothing I could do. Nothing I should do. Nothing I thought I should do. But I wondered, “Did I cause this?” “Did I foster some fear in her?” “Did my over cautious parenting plant a seed of fear in my children?” I couldn’t help but sit and cry at the thought that I may not be doing what was best for my kids. First Born wasn’t as scared, but still wouldn’t jump in, attempt to tread water, or allow the instructor to let go. I was not at all disappointed, but saddened that their fear was keeping them from the life they were intended to live… a life of abundance, a life of fun, a life free from worry.

We left swimming (we did make it through the entire lesson) I hugged them, encouraged them, and made sure they knew they were safe. We were able to talk about the fear, rationalize through it. Knowing that no one else in class drown, gave them some relief. They came home and  set goals for the next day. Lil’ Jewel was going to try to swim with the boogie board without clawing the instructor to death. First Born was going to try to dive in from a kneeled position instead of being pulled in. And I came home and cried… and cried… and cried. I prayed that God would guide me as I parent my kids through their fears. I stayed up late and prayed for their lessons the next day, that they would learn a valuable lesson in confidence.

The next day there were NO tears (from my kids at least!). My Lil’ Jewel jumped right in. She bobbed 10 times. She floated on her back with the instructor only holding her head. She was relaxed, she kicked perfectly, she got all her hair wet… and she swam with the boogie board!  First Born upped his game as well. He not only dove in, but kicked butt at all his skills. They were new kids. I was beaming with pride as they showed fear who was boss! I couldn’t help but to sit and bawl my eyes out at how God had cared for my babies.

When my Lil’ Jewel jumped in the water (without tears mind you) and back floated the length of the pool my First Born stood to his feet and began shouting, “You’re doing it, “Lil Jewel” (he called her by name, of course!)! Keep going. You’re doing SO great! You are the BOMB!” He clapped and cheered, and was genuinely proud of her! I was standing to my feet as I wiped my tears seeing her conquer a long-standing fear of hers. She did it… and He cheered her on. Parents all over the stands giggled, laughed, ooohhed, and awwwwed at how adorable he was, and how brave she was. When she was all done, they all clapped for her.

By the end of the week, she was jumping in the deep end, he was swimming with no assistance (front and back). He dove from the diving board, she was swimming on her belly with minimal support!

Who would have known that 5 days of swimming lessons could teach so many lessons in confidence.

Without going into a full-fledged post on my style of parenting, whether I over protect, or not… Ciske family_0117I have some awesome kids (and cute ones, too… do you see them!). They fight their fears, they have each other’s back, and they learn in record time. Their confidence to jump in the pool translated into no more “I’m scared of ______” trips down the stairs. It has transformed my First Born’s confidence to ride his bike full speed over the make shift bike ramp the neighborhood kids made. Their confidence to conquer their fears showed me that as I pray, God leads me to raise my kids the way HE wants me to raise them. That He is the only one I need to fear. I am not above making mistakes, but I have a gracious God. And what these kids taught me this week was to pray instead of fret, To be confident instead of fearful, and to give my kids more credit. They are made by Him, they love Him, and will be guided by Him. And, man o man do these kids ROCK!

Best week of homeschooling EVER!!! (but maybe I learned more than anyone else!)

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St. James Takes the Cake

cupcakeMay 25th of last year, we loaded our family, our belongings, and our faith and moved. The long 7 hour drive gave me plenty of time to reflect on where we’d been, come up with ideas for our future, miss those I was leaving behind, and freak out about where we were heading. Starting a brand new adventure comes with many emotions, and riding alone in the car (with the 4 kids of course) for that long brings them all out.

Many months before as Dave sent out resume upon resume to churches, I had asked him not to tell me where he was sending them. I didn’t want to put stipulations on my desires based on how cold the winters were, or how far from family it was. I wanted to ask God for His will, and follow that without hesitation. Then one day we heard that someone had called our references. We were super excited, praying for the board who was looking into us, and I had to ask the question… “Where is the church?”

St. James, MN. I looked it up, I saw that it was in MINNESOTA… and a “tiny” town on top of that. I looked up how close Target was. How close Walmart was, and how close Hobby Lobby was. All of which were more than a half an hour. At least it wasn’t 3 hours like we’d done before. And, it still wasn’t really bothering me.

By the time Dave had the Skype interview, I was in love with the idea of living in a small town. I had my fears. I worried about homeschooling in a town with no other homeschoolers. I worried about how I’d fit in. I worried about how my kids would fit in. But I didn’t worry about whether this was the right move.

Now a year later, I find many ways God has blessed this move! My kids did not go through any behavior issues that accompany a major move for small children. They made friends right away. They got involved in sports, after school programs, and many fun adventures. Our homeschool year was the best we’ve had so far.

All this to say this: When God puts a calling on your life, and your willing to follow, He will equip you with a passion for that calling. I truly enjoy the people here. I enjoy the small town. I love that we can walk anywhere we want to go! I love that people stop us on the street and ask us if we’re “new”. I love that we can talk to ANYONE and feel that we’ve known them forever! I love that I can eat at McDonalds and strike up a conversation with the lady next to us, and it feels like I had lunch with a good friend. I love our church, our church members, and my passionate Pastor!

St. James has made my year amazing. And I love that God has called us here. I love that Dave listened to God’s calling and followed Him, and lead us to St. James! It is my home. And I am looking forward to our 2nd year!

What am I chasing?

In a life where I play many roles, wife, pastor’s wife, mother, homeschool mother, and child of God, it’s easy to get pushed around, twirled, and tossed. I see it as a pin the tail game. I sometimes feel blindfolded, turned around and set off to do a task of life but all I really do is feel my way and hope to get “close enough.”

I don’t want to get close enough. If I’m putting in the effort, I want to hit the mark. I want to support and love my husband; I want to serve my congregation; I want to love my children more and more each day; I want to teach my children values, reading, writing, and arithmetic, but most of all, I want to serve my Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and God of the universe! Unfortunately, I put too much emphasis on helping my husband get the church to grow (spiritually and in numbers) I pray so hard, I research, I worry, I brainstorm, I get consumed. But I fail to chase after God. Regrettably I strive to make it through my stay at home mom days filling it with activities to diminish the chaos trying to keep from yelling, and to love more. I pintrest fun activities for the kids. I read a stack of books to them, even let them crawl all over… but I fail to chase after God. Grievously, I pour my time into researching homeschool curriculum, sometimes well into the wee hours. I fear failing them academically. I worry they will hate being at home. I worry that I’ll spend too much money and then it not work. But I fail to chase after God.

The funny thing is that on paper (or a computer screen) those things don’t seem bad. I’m supporting my husband, we have a good marriage. I’m doing the best I can at my role at church, I’m a loving mother just wanting to do what’s best. I put a lot into our homeschool day… but sadly if I do not have God as my center, all this energy, all this research, all this “LOVE” is for nothing.

Jennie Allen, in her Bible study Chase says “Whether we acknowledge it or not, our lives are motivated by our hearts. So what we love determines how we live.” I truly believe that my success in those roles lies in my love for God. Apart from him, my marriage fails, our church has no meaning, my kids stay lost, and my homeschooling efforts fail. My fears are reflective of my lack of trust in my Provider. My frustrations stem from me relying on ME. My failures are a direct result of me chasing the title of best wife, and not my Jesus. My inadequacies as a mother and homeschooler are connected to my inadequacies to run hard after the heart of God.

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

My chase should not to be to become a spectacular homeschooler (I will probably never attain it!). My chase should not be to single-handedly grow my church 10 fold. My chase should not be to have “Devoted Wife and Mother” on my tombstone. My chase NEEDS TO BE after HIM, His kingdom and Righteousness… then all these things… all the hopes and dreams I have for my marriage, my church, my kids, my “Ciske Academy” (haven’t settled on that name, yet!) will be given to me as well. And not just given to me by anyone, but by God himself.

Again, from the Bible Study Chase by Jennie Allen, “We’re all chasing after something, something that we think will make us happy– comfort, success, a bigger house, or someone’s approval. But if we are all honest, it feels like we are chasing the wind. God is invisible, and yet His is the ONLY thing we can chase that won’t leave us feeling more empty.” (emphasis mine).

My prayer for myself, my prayer for every wife, mother, pastor wife, and homeschooler… well, for every Christian and for those still seeking is for us to run wholeheartedly after God. To chase Him with all our might. To call upon Him in weakness, strength, worry and fear. Strap on our running shoes and lets run!

Hebrews.12:1                                                                                                                                                                                                                     And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Get Ready, Set… CHASE!

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